THE super-infectious Covid-19 Delta “variant of concern” has reached community spread in Trinidad and Tobago.
Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Roshan Parasram yesterday confirmed that with the discovery of more positive cases who have shown no apparent travel history, health officials are declaring the Delta variant to now be at the early stages of community spread.
“We’re seeing now that the Delta variant is reaching to the stage that it can be stated that it is in community spread,” Parasram stated at the ministry’s Covid-19 virtual news conference.
Noting six additional Delta cases announced by the ministry last Sunday, he said, “We would have reported last night six additional cases, five of which would not have had any travel-related component to it. So, now, we can clearly say that we are in a stage of community spread of Delta, albeit in the early stages.”
Parasram continued to encourage vaccination against the virus and reminded people to be extra-vigilant about the pandemic public health regulations.
“I think the main thing we need to focus on at this point, is really getting those vaccination numbers across the country up as quickly as we can, especially in light of the issue, and we’re seeing that Delta variant is now reaching to the stage that it can be stated that it is in community spread,” Parasram said.
The Delta variant is said to be more infectious and deadlier than other variants or the parent Covid-19 strain.
Health officials have said Covid-19 vaccines currently being administered have been shown to be significantly effective in not only reducing the chances of becoming infected by a variant, including Delta, but also of becoming seriously ill, or hospitalised, as a result.
Among the Delta cases announced last Sunday was an unvaccinated national minor who recently travelled to Trinidad from New York, as well as another infected minor with no apparent travel history, the ministry has disclosed.
This brought the total number of local Delta cases to 17, eight of whom originated in the population.
Of those five, four cases were related to other, previous Covid-19 positives, Parasram said.
The CMO also reminded that the results of the gene sequencing process for local cases, by which variants are detected and which is being conducted by The University of the West Indies (The UWI), take up to three weeks to become available.
“So they would have been contacts of other positive cases, those cases themselves have not been Delta as yet and testing is ongoing,” Parasram said, adding that once the sequencing is complete, the cases are “likely” to test positive for Delta.
He later stated that for one of the Delta cases to have been picked by random sequencing, it must have been in the public “for some time”.
The patients were asymptomatic but were linked through contact tracing to the other positive cases, which have not yet been confirmed as Delta cases.
“So out of the five there was one case that was basically a stand-alone sort of case where we are continuing the epidemiological investigation,” he said, adding later that, “there were two related to one case and another two in another geographic location related to another case, not known Delta”.
He explained “we would have tested and used the new criteria and sent it on for testing for Delta”.
The CMO stressed that Delta’s community spread was still in its early stages and he urged people to get vaccinated.
High count in Victoria
The county of Victoria continues to present with the highest pooling of Covid-19 cases locally, leading technical director of epidemiology at the ministry, Dr Avery Hinds, to remind the national communities to be vigilant about the public health guidelines.
Victoria currently accounts for 26.7 per cent of local cases, although the CMO also noted, “they do have quite a highly populated area as well so there’s a large number of people in that particular county”.
He also stated: “In terms of the Victoria numbers, Victoria has been, in terms of a percentage for the longest while, maybe upwards of a few months, the county that has had the greater number of cases in terms of a percentage.”
Contact tracing exercises by the County Medical Officer of Health have been ongoing and continuous, he said.
This includes testing, treating and isolating “as best as they can”, he said.
However, people must aid the process by getting vaccinated quickly, not only in Victoria but in all the counties across the country, he said, so they would “have that level of protection from Covid-19”.
“There were two that were related to one case and another two in a different geographic location, again related to another case, not known Delta,” Parasram said of the new Delta cases.
“More or less what we’re seeing is that the majority of them seem to be asymptomatic and the reason we picked up those four cases is because of their relation to the other positives,” he added.
Parasram said “the majority of them so far, those five people, seem to be having asymptomatic or mild disease....at least those are the ones we’ve picked up so far.”